The Biden campaign, in a bid to shore up the president’s waning support among Arab and Muslim voters, dispatched campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez last week to meet with an Arab-American activist who has praised Hamas and refers to the president as "Genocide Joe."
Rodriguez met Friday with Arab-American News publisher Osama Siblani in Dearborn, Mich., one of the country’s largest Arab communities. Siblani, who carries significant influence in Michigan’s Arab community, has an extensive history of praising terrorist groups. In 2022, he urged Arabs at a rally with Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.) to fight Israel with "stones" and "guns" and praised the fedayeen, or Islamic militants. He has referred to Hamas and Hezbollah as "freedom fighters," according to the Anti-Defamation League.
The outreach comes as Siblani and other activists have called to boycott the Biden-Harris ticket over the administration’s opposition to a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war. Siblani told the Associated Press that his meeting with Rodriguez went "very well," and that the campaign manager said she would relay his concerns to Biden.
The meeting highlights Biden’s desperate bid to repair his standing with a reliably Democratic voting bloc. Arab-American support for Biden fell from 59 percent in 2020 to just 17 percent after the Hamas attack, according to one poll. That’s especially worrisome for Biden in a swing state like Michigan, which voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and went for Biden by just 3 percentage points in 2020. Michigan has more than 300,000 residents with Middle Eastern or North African ancestry, the largest concentration of any state.
After Hamas’s attack on Israel in October, Siblani organized an event in Dearborn where a local imam said Hamas’s invasion of Israel lit "a fire in [Muslims’] hearts that will burn that state until its demise." He cheered Houthi rebels as "the pride of Arabs" after the Yemen-based terrorist group called for war with Israel.
In 2017, Siblani organized a rally where an activist stated that "whether it's called Hamas, whether it's called Hezbollah, we stand with everybody who stands against the Israeli occupation."
Siblani, who once organized a boycott of a restaurant whose owner posted "Long Live Israel" on social media, has called on Arab and Muslim voters to oppose Biden and other Democrats he sees as too supportive of Israel. He has called Biden "Genocide Joe" and said days before his meeting with the Biden campaign that he will not vote for the president.
"No vote for you Mr. Warmonger," Siblani wrote.
The White House is well aware of Siblani’s inflammatory rhetoric. Siblani bragged that he refused "to apologize for Hamas firing rockets at Israel" during a conference call with Biden White House officials in 2021.
Team Biden’s meeting with Siblani is perhaps all the more surprising because the White House has sought to distance itself from anti-Israel rhetoric. In December, the White House condemned Council on American-Islamic Relations director Nihad Awad after he said he was "happy to see" Hamas attack Israel.
The Biden campaign and Siblani did not respond to requests for comment.